SECDEF Mattis visits U.S. nuclear bases and command

-In a conventional conflict, the B-52 can perform air interdiction, offensive counter-air and maritime operations. During Desert Storm, B-52s delivered 40 percent of all the weapons dropped by coalition forces. It is highly effective when used for ocean surveillance, and can assist the U.S. Navy in anti-ship and mine-laying operations. Two B-52s, in two hours, can monitor 140,000 square miles (364,000 square kilometers) of ocean surface. All B-52s are equipped with an electro-optical viewing system that uses platinum silicide forward-looking infrared and high resolution low-light-level television sensors to augment the targeting, battle assessment, flight safety and terrain-avoidance system, thus further improving its combat ability and low-level flight capability. (U.S. Air Force photo)

It’s not often the secretary of defense makes it a point to visit U.S. nuclear weapons sites, but SECDEF James Mattis will do so this week in what some are interpreting as a signal to one of America’s potential challengers.

Just days after North Korea tested what analysts now think was a 250-kiloton nuclear device, Mattis will tour two key U.S. nuclear weapons bases as American forces in the Pacific remain on high alert.

Mattis will visit Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, which controls ICBMs scattered across the state and is home to B-52 bombers, which can launch nuclear cruise missiles. He will also visit U.S. Strategic Command, in Omaha, Nebraska, which would control a nuclear war.

“His visit to two nuclear-focused locations comes at an opportune time given the ongoing Nuclear Posture and Ballistic Missile Defense Reviews,” Pentagon officials said in a statement late Tuesday.

President Donald Trump ordered a review of America’s nuclear forces shortly after taking office in January. That said, Mattis’ visit is meant, in part, to demonstrate to North Korea the United States’ much larger, much more lethal, and far more advanced nuclear capability.

Why it’s on our radar: Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 3: What are the latest indicators of a U.S.-North Korea conflict?  Each week in our Strategic Intelligence Summary, we gauge the likelihood and scope of conflict with Russia, China, North Korea, and in the Middle East, and track the latest developments in each region. Subscribe here to receive our premium intelligence products prepared by Intelligence and special operations veterans.


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